Breed Group: Toy
Height: 8 to 11 inches at the shoulder
Weight: 3 to 12 pounds
Life Span: 13 to 17 years
The word papillon is French for butterfly, and it’s an apt name for these pretty little dogs with their distinctive erect ears. But don’t let the Papillon’s dainty appearance fool you. Despite his wee size, he is the original “big dog in a small body” and has more energy and smarts than many people know what to do with.
Did You Know the Papillon is One of the Smartest of All Dogs, a Clever and Active Little Guy?
Teen pop sensation Justin Bieber owns a Papillon named Sam, who he adopted from a shelter. Bieber told his pet rescue story in a PSA on animal adoption for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. A Papillon named Bijoux appeared in the commercial with Bieber.
Like a supermodel with a Ph.D in nuclear physics, the Papillon first catches your eye with his looks — trademark butterfly-wing ears, silky coat and dark eyes — his grace and his expressiveness. But packed inside that pretty purse-sized body is one of the smartest of all dogs, a clever, active little guy who excels at almost anything dogs do, from organized sports like canine agility to long walks in the park — and of course, companionship.
His small size means he can live happily in an apartment, but only if he receives gentle, consistent training to prevent nuisance barking and potty accidents. This dog is sometimes nicknamed the yappy Pappy, and like many small dogs he has a casual attitude toward housetraining.
The Papillon is not a good choice if you want a restful dog who doesn’t need much exercise. He is highly intelligent and needs the stimulation of activity and training. He needs time to run around safely and play with other small dogs, as well as long walks on leash every day. Daily activity is a good rule of thumb if you want to keep the Papillon from entertaining himself in ways you won’t like. He’s a natural at many dog sports, including agility, carting, flyball, freestyle, obedience, rally, and tracking. It’s always a good idea to check with your vet before starting an exercise program with your pet.
However alert and active they are, Papillons are still extremely small, and need to be protected from rambunctious children and dogs. Since he has no idea he’s as small as he is, he’s likely to challenge much bigger dogs, as well as leap tall buildings in a single bound – potentially with broken bones as a result. Other than that, he believes in “the more, the merrier,” and he likes to live in multi-pet homes. Many Papillons and cats have become fast friends.
While the dogs are named for their distinctive ears like a butterfly wing – “papillon” is French for “butterfly” – they can have hanging ears as well. Although these dogs are usually referred to as “Phalenes” rather than “Papillons,” the dogs are otherwise identical and in the United States are registered, bred, and shown as a single breed.
Other Quick Facts About the Papillon
Papillon breeders usually like to keep puppies until they are 12 weeks old to make sure they are mature enough to go to their new homes.
Papillons come in two varieties: one with erect ears known as the Papillon (butterfly) and one with drop ears known as the Phalene (French for moth) and pronounced “fuh Lin.”
Papillons can have a long life span — up to 17 years — and are generally healthy, but they can develop certain health problems, including luxating patellas (a knee problem), collapsing trachea and dental disease.